‘Give courage to the ladies’: expansive apprenticeship for women in rural Malawi

Safford, Kimberly; Cooper, Deborah; Wolfenden, Freda and Chitsulo, Joyce (2013). ‘Give courage to the ladies’: expansive apprenticeship for women in rural Malawi. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 65(2) pp. 193–207.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13636820.2012.755213


Apprenticeship in developed and industrialised nations is increasingly understood as a theory of learning which connects workplace activity and formal study. The concept of ‘expansive apprenticeship’ defines frameworks for workforce development where participants acquire knowledge and skills which will help them in the future as well as in their current roles, whilst ‘restrictive’ apprenticeships limit opportunities for wider, lifelong learning. In developing nations apprenticeship is a traditional route to learning and employment, but apprenticeships in these contexts tend to reflect a restrictive approach characterized by narrowly defined roles and weak educational outcomes. This paper examines a project in Malawi which uses concepts of expansive apprenticeship to address barriers to female continuing education and chronic teacher shortages. The Malawi Access to Teaching Scholarship recruited one thousand women to follow a year-long combined programme of academic distance study and practical work experience in rural primary schools. The aim is to increase the numbers of women teachers in Malawi, especially in rural areas. The Scholarship materials and support structures are designed to move participants from restrictive to expansive contexts for learning so that Scholars develop hybrid roles as students, community workers and apprentice pedagogues. The programme’s resources and approach offer an innovative model of expansive apprenticeship in Sub Saharan Africa.

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